HAMLET — Tuesday marked the 11th year in a row the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with local businesses to put on the Business Expo.
Each year has seen the event grow, according to Chamber President Emily Tucker, and this year’s expo saw even more vendors parked outside Cole Auditorium than in previous years.
“This time there was more of a public awareness,” said Tucker. “It’s been a great event, and it gives our businesses a chance to showcase their services and the things they provide to the community.”
Businesses in attendance ranged from Richmond County Hospice, Hawk’s Builders and K2 Solutions to Tri City Inc. and Maness Tire.
Others who were providing free samples of food and drink were Pattan’s Downtown Grille, Biscuitville, Pepsi, Little River Winery, Peking Wok, Dairy Queen, Fatz Café and Twisted Treats.
For any business that found itself represented at Cole Auditorium Tuesday, however, the main objective was to network and meet new potential customers.
Leon Paul III, owner of Swift Printing in Rockingham, said any time he can print something for a customer locally instead of shipping it out to California, he prefers to do that. The expo gives him more chances to make that happen.
“It gives us the chance to meet some of the local guys, money stays here in the county and we can network within the county,” said Paul. “It’s nice to be in a not-so-business setting and get to know people and what they do for a living.”
For Stogner Architecture, architect David Stogner said he doesn’t think people realize there’s even an architecture firm in town. But with recently completed projects such as local Nissan, Toyota and Ford dealerships, a few churches, the Farm Bureau building on Rockingham Road and the new Dunkin’ Donuts breaking ground this week in Richmond Plaza, it allows people to put a face with the name.
The same can be said for Classic Apparel, and according to Keri Humann, a lot of people don’t realize all the different products her company offers.
“A lot of people don’t realize all we do. We’re a promotional company. We do anything we can to put your name on it,” said Humann. “We want to make your company succeed. The companies here are giving away pens, pads and things to remember them, and that’s what we do.”
Meanwhile, outside in the parking lot of Cole Auditorium, the Kona Ice truck sat with lights glowing inviting people to walk up and try a cup of shaved ice. Stephen Cribb, co-owner of Kona Ice of Scotland and Richmond County, said people didn’t seem to be aware of his business within the county and his presence in the parking lot didn’t bring many sales, but Cribb said his main concern was making contacts.
Cribb spoke with Maurice McLaurin of Hamlet’s Parks and Recreation Department and said Kona Ice will be stationed at local games during the summer and will sponsor a soccer team in the fall. Cribb also spoke with Norman Mayor Kenneth Broadway and will have a spot waiting for him when Norman Fest rolls around in a few months as well.
“Marketing is very good for business whether old or new,” said Cribb, “because you never know who you’re gonna run into and make a contact.”
Across the parking lot sat A Delightful Tour party bus, owned by Antoinette Flowers, and for her, any time she can get her business seen — and also heard with the music coming from the bus’s sound system — it’s an opportunity.
“It’s very important,” she said of having a business expo and showcasing her bus outside. “There are a lot of people that don’t know about us. Rockingham is where it’s at. This is my first expo. They love it. I love it. It’s fun. We can have fun collectively.”
Perhaps no other words encapsulated what the partnership between Richmond Community College’s Cole Auditorium and local businesses means than those from President Dr. Dale McInnis.
“The people that had the vision to build this building 20 years ago, this is exactly what they had in mind,” said McInnis. “To open it up and have all these businesses, small businesses are the lifeblood of a community.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.